April was a fantastic month. Focusing on whole-food, natural ingredients encouraged me to think about food at an elemental level. By doing so, I changed my relationship to food. I began to think about the foundation of the food, rather than the food product. Each of these monthly experiences has been about learning. They are not about long-term dietary restriction, but about forcing yourself to think about your standardized practices that make up your day-to-day life. After March, I started transitioning away from plastic in a more serious way. Post-April, I will continue to think about the ingredients that make up the food that I eat. By forcing myself to experience an extreme, I realize how moderation can be applied to my daily life.
May is a new month, which means it is time for something new. This time, I am transitioning away from food, but continuing to revert back to a more simple, less processed, less technological existence. I stumbled upon the documentary The City Dark, which focused on our modern obsession with artificial life. It made me realize that artificial light really is the enemy of darkness. I had benefitted from exploring natural areas my entire life, which meant that I had experienced unpolluted, dark nights. I had seen the Milky Way, meteor showers, and the Northern Lights. Many people have never seen one of these things, let alone all three.
Thinking about the role that modern light plays into our lives made me think about how I could retake control of my own darkness. Pre-20th century, humans operated in roughly 12-14 hours of light followed by 10-12 hours of darkness. Things have clearly changed. When we think about that change, we must try to imagine the effect that it is having on our bodies. I remember in Pysch 101, we talked about the importance of our circadian rhythm. We fall into that rhythm based on a light-dark cycle. By substituting our dark, resting hours for artificially lit, stimulated hours, we are throwing off our cycle. My goal is to renounce all artificial light, stimuli, and distractions between sunset and sunrise; to live by candlepower. I am curious to see how this changes my the rhythm of my life, how it will change my waking hours, how it will change my sleep patterns, etc. I also have no doubt that it will divert my focus away from social media, online shopping, research, etc. and allow me to channel it towards the world around me. That can’t be a bad thing!
When I was leading kayaking tours in the Apostle Islands, I remember taking a group of boy scouts out for an overnight trip on Sand Island. That night, one boy came up to me, pointed to the sky, and said “I’ve never seen stars before…”. Now he was staring up at the Milky Way, watching shooting stars dance across the sky. Some times you must walk out your front door and find darkness before it becomes even more scarce.
Take advantage of whatever darkness you can, while we still have it!